Reading HVAC Spells Wealth was a revelation for Jeremy Lewis.
At the time when he got his hands on Ron Smith’s widely read business book, Lewis was just 20 years old. He was in college and working in his father’s Chicago-area HVAC shop.
“The book was interesting because it showed the opposite of how we were doing things,” Lewis says. “We had always been commercial-based, always been project-based. So, I’m like, ‘Oh, there is another way.’”
Lewis had to let his fascination with other ways of doing business simmer. After college, he went into sales.
“As time went on, I was more into the residential,” he says. “I was more into the customer service, more into what a repair and replacement business could look like. And as a company, we weren't like that. We did some of it, but not entirely.”
Over the course of 10 years, Lewis began to formulate a plan.
“I always knew that with a different structure, our profits could be a lot higher,” he says.
He also liked the pace of cash flow he saw in residential business.
“The money is right away, people pay you right away,” he says. “With commercial, you wait, you got to collect, you have to hold money back. And I wanted to spend aggressively in marketing, too. And a lot of those funds weren't there because they were always held back for the next commercial project.”
Lewis and his brother began talking about switching the company to residential-based. They knew, however, that such a drastic changeover wasn’t what their parents—who were closing in on retirement—were interested in.
When their dad did decide to step aside, the Lewis brothers decided to completely overhaul the company.
“I knew we either had to go all in, or we should just sell and be done with it because there's only two possible opportunities that could come from this,” Lewis says. “Either, we're going to be wildly successful, or we're going to crash and burn and fail."
The gamble paid off: After changing course, and acquiring a couple other businesses, Gleason Plumbing has seen a 40% growth in annual revenue. And the average ticket has grown by $600.
Lewis recently joined ServiceTitan’s Jackie Aubel as part of Season 3 of the “Toolbox for the Trades” podcast, which included Lewis’ thoughts on:
Finding the right partner, and why opposites attract.
Keeping-company meetings from being gripe sessions.
The best way to set yourself up to train apprentices.
Why hiring from outside the trades is a great move.
Understanding your numbers, especially the most important ones.
His “Nike” strategy behind adding trades to the existing business.
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